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Today’s guest writer is Josh Meisels, our intern this summer. He is heading back to school next week but wanted to share information about one of his summer projects.
Access 2007 made a huge push to create useful, ready-to-use database templates that users could download from Office Online and get started with Access. The number of downloads exceeded our expectations (the Access 2007 contacts database is downloaded about 60,000 times a month). We thought the templates were pretty good; however, in January we linked each template to a feedback survey. From the results we derived a Net Promoter Score that indicated we had plenty of room to improve (see Clint’s post on Provide Feedback).
When I began my internship on the Microsoft Access team 3 months ago, my first assignment was to redesign one of the poorest performing, and yet the most downloaded template, the Contact Management Database. Many people provided email addresses as part of our survey, so I contacted them and called 10 who ran the gamut from students to professors, receptionists and business professionals. Each had a different, personal story to tell about his or her experience with Access and with the contacts template. The best part was how surprised people were when they learned that Microsoft actually cared what they had to say!
From feedback, I compiled a list of template limitations, including
The last one came up repeatedly; and for an Access newbie, just learning how to add a field can be a challenging task.
To bring help into the application, we created a custom “Getting Started” screen that pops up when you first open the template.
It provides links to online help and two custom videos about using and modifying the contacts template. The videos have received rave reviews, not just because they help users learn to work with the Contacts Template, but also because they teach widely applicable Access skills that, unlike traditional help, appeal to visual learners.
In addition to listening to customers, we also watched them. We conducted a usability study with people who were familiar with other Microsoft offerings like Excel, but who had never used Access, and we asked them to perform tasks with the template. For two days we watched and learned how to make the template even easier to use and more visually appealing. Changes that resulted from the study were the addition of a text-based summary of our videos, and clearer video labels. Over the next few weeks we made incremental changes to the template so what we released would be as clear and usable as possible.
Two weeks ago we released an updated version of the Contacts Template. Our satisfaction scores shot up 64%! The team is pretty excited. People especially like the new video help. Here’s what folks are saying about the videos:
Don’t take other people’s word for it. Check out the template here and the videos.
More important than the positive words about the videos and the NPS increase for the template is the overall impact or research has had on the product. The last question we asked in our feedback form was whether users would recommend Access to a friend. This isn’t rating the template anymore, but rather the overall experience with Access after using the template. The NPS score we derived from this improved 35% after releasing the new template!
Here are the three things we took away from our experience redesigning the contacts template:
If you are looking for ways to apply this to your own applications, consider the addition of a feedback form, an NPS score calculation and connect with people who struggle with your product. Also, before you release a feature, do ad-hoc usability testing. Ask a friend or co-worker to perform a few tasks; and watch where they click, what confuses them and what makes them happy. Finally, make help a part of your application by adding videos – the Office Labs Community Clips recorder is a great tool for this.
To have "live" search on my contact database, I'm using practicaly the same macros (well, I use VBA to set recordsource) using Change even on SearchBox. This way you don't need additional Go button. Mihail Caian, MOLDOVA, EUROPE
SOrry, mistype: ...Change event...
That is all good but take the video example of creating the extra field 'birthday'. You can create the field in access and add it to the form without a glitch. But the problem is that it needs to link to Outlook so when you click 'Save as Outlook contact' it will actually save the birthday in Outlook as well. How does one do that?